Each of us has a pedal history that tells an interesting story about who we are, where we came from, and maybe even where we’re going.
This circa-1987 pic shows me, in the earlier portion of my pedal history, playing with my mostly covers band, the Edge (sorry Mr. The Edge!), at the Backstage Cafe in Provo, Utah. I’m the one with the red guitar plugged into a DigiTech PDS 1550 pedal and DigiTech DSP-128 rack (both not shown) and a Roland JC-120 (far right).
Ahhh … pedals. For anyone acquainted with a guitarist or bassist well enough to have heard the endless tales of overextended credit cards, marital strife, and/or exhaustingly hyperbolic descriptions of sonic glory, no other single word can quite encapsulate the mania, fickleness, obsession, narcissism, instability, adventurousness, or schizophrenia that typifies us.
But when you look beyond the tedious, clichéd yakking about monstrous pedalboards, closets overflowing with stomps, seller’s remorse, and how much better the earlier version of pedal X is than the “pathetic” current model, each of us has a pedal history that tells an interesting story about who we are, where we came from, and maybe even where we’re going.
My own pedal history is pretty unique for a number of reasons. As I’ve shared here before, having taken up electric guitar at the age of 13 in mid-’80s Provo, Utah—not exactly a hotbed of raging guitar awesomeness at the time—I had practically zero guitar-playing peers (other than my instructors) when I started out. Add to that the fact that DOD and DigiTech effects were made less than 40 miles away and that the raddest guitarist in town was a DigiTech clinician whom I idolized, and you get why my first few pedal years were dominated by those brands. I got a DOD FX56 American Metal pedal within a year or so of buying my first Strat, and a year or so after that I got a DigiTech PDS 1550 2-channel distortion and an Ibanez DML digital modulation delay. And then things sort of snowballed. A DOD FX-17 Wah-Volume, a DOD FX35 Octoplus, and a DOD FX10 Bi-Fet Preamp followed over the next year or two.
Toward the end of high school and the beginning of college, I ventured off into broader, more classic-oriented tones with a Hughes & Kettner Tubeman, an Ibanez AD99 analog delay, an MXR Phase 90, a Dunlop Rotovibe, and a Cry Baby 535Q. Full confession: There was a brief period during which I stomped a Zoom 505 multi-effector, but that was only to facilitate late-night headphone jamming as an apartment dweller. Honest.
Around the time I started working as a freelance guitar journalist (roughly 13 years ago), I began to get a taste for boutique brands. After a lot of research, I bought a Demeter Tremulator (which I still own and love), and briefly owned one of the most gorgeous-sounding analog delays on the planet—a Maxon AD999—before letting pedal lust and the Maxon’s high fetching price convince me to sell it and rely on the very good tape-delay emulation in a DigiTech DigiDelay. I continued my phaser flirtation with an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone, and then began to get into more experimental sounds with a 4th-generation DigiTech Whammy.
When I joined a synth- and bass-heavy modern-rock band a while after that, I found that my beloved Fulltone OCD through a silverface Fender didn’t cut through the mix quite as handily as—get this—a $19 Danelectro Bacon ’N Eggs distortion/ mini amp. A while later, my appreciation for J. Mascis and other masters of Neanderthalic amazingness inspired a Z.Vex Fuzz Factory purchase. But not long after that I inexplicably entered my current semi-minimalist, atmospheric-punk-twang phase, which began with being seduced by a Strymon BlueSky Reverberator. A bit into this phase, I realized it was about time I throw a compressor on my ’board, and I bought an MXR Dyna Comp. I mean, c’mon—twang without compression? I didn’t know what I was missing.
A while later, I eased up on my minimalism and got back on the dirtbox wagon with a few different boosts and overdrives, finally settling on a Pigtronix Fat Drive. After digging the comp for a while, my tastes morphed a little and I hankered for the flat, pristine response I heard out of Sonny Landreth’s 2-knob Keeley Compressor and decided I had to have one.
Save for a few leaps over years, stylistic phases, and gear that’s now a little hazy because of the minimal sleep I’ve had over the last few nights leading up to putting this here Pedal Issue to bed, these are the main pedals that come to mind from my stompbox story so far. Due to the sleep deprivation, I’m certain I’ve overlooked a few purchases here and there. And, like all of you, I’ve played countless great boxes that, for one reason or another—often simple lack of funds—didn’t end up on my pedalboard (being a guitar journalist for so long has certainly provided innumerable opportunities to stomp on new tone toys). But these are the main ones that ended up under my toes for a significant period of time.
What do they say about me? I guess that’s open to interpretation, but to me they tell the tale of young, trusting naïveté gradually evolving into a more aware, more discerning adolescence, then a more bourgeoisie adventurousness, and then to a more self-confident willingness to strip things down and reject pomp but not circumstance or craziness. I don’t even know if that makes sense to anyone else—it may just sound like a whole lot of pomp. But whatever … to each their own.
Here’s to your pedal stories! I’d love to hear them.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.